The global arms trade

merchantsofdeath.Lithograph by Mabel Dwight

Merchants of Death – Lithograph by Mabel Dwight

Worldwide total military spending amounts to some $1.69 trillion per year. Of this, about $375 billion goes to buying arms.

The volume of international transfers of major arms in the period 2014-18 was 7.8 per cent higher than in 2009-13 and 23 per cent higher than in 2004-2008, according to data on arms transfers published in March by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The trend in international transfers of major weapons, 1979-2018. Data and graphic: SIPRI.

The five largest exporters in 2014-18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China. Together, they accounted for 75 per cent of the total volume of arms exports in 2014-18. Of these, the U.S. is far the largest.

U.S. arms exports grew by 29 per cent between 2009-13 and 2014-18, and the U.S. share of total global exports rose from 30 per cent to 36 per cent. The gap between the top two arms-exporting states also increased: U.S. exports of major arms were 75 per cent higher than Russia’s in 2014-18, while they were only 12 per cent higher in 2009-13. More than half (52 per cent) of U.S. arms exports went to the Middle East in 2014-18.

“The U.S. has further solidified its position as the world’s leading arms supplier,” says Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. “The USA exported arms to at least 98 countries in the past five years; these deliveries often included advanced weapons such as combat aircraft, short-range cruise and ballistic missiles, and large numbers of guided bombs.”

Arms exports by Russia decreased by 17 per cent between 2009-13 and 2014-18, in particular due to the reduction in arms imports by India and Venezuela. Between 2009-13 and 2014-18 France increased its arms exports by 43 per cent and Germany by 13 per cent. The combined arms exports of European Union member states accounted for 27 per cent of global arms exports in 2014-18.

A small number of countries outside Europe and North America are large arms exporters. China was the fifth largest arms exporter in 2014-18. Whereas Chinese arms exports rose by 195 per cent between 2004-2008 and 2009-13, they increased by only 2.7 per cent between 2009-13 and 2014-18. Israeli, south Korean and Turkish arms exports increased substantially — 60 per cent, 94 per cent and 170 per cent, respectively — between 2009-13 and 2014-18.

The U.S. role as the number one arms manufacturer in the world is reflected in the chart below that shows the world’s top 10 arms companies by sales, location, and arms as a percentage of sales, based on data from SIPRI:


Click to enlarge.

Of the top ten companies by sales, seven of these are U.S. The other three are Airbus, which gets 17 per cent of its sales from arms production, as well as the UK’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo.

Considering the top 100 list of arms companies by sales, U.S. companies accounted for a 58 per cent of total arms sales (this figure does not account for sales by Chinese companies, for which complete data was not available). This figure is said to provide a rough approximation of the percentage of global arms sales by U.S. arms manufacturers. In 2016, of the top 100 arms manufacturers, U.S. firms sold $217.2 billion worth of arms, up 4.0 per cent over the previous year.

Doubling of Arms Imports by Middle East States in 2014-18 Period

SIPRI informs that arms imports by states in the Middle East increased by 87 per cent between 2009-13 and 2014-18 and accounted for 35 per cent of global arms imports in 2014-18.

Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer in 2014-18, with an increase of 192 per cent compared with 2009-13. It has been carrying out military aggression against neighbouring Yemen since 2015.

Arms imports by Egypt, the third largest arms importer in 2014-18, tripled (206 per cent) between 2009-13 and 2014-18. Arms imports by Israel (354 per cent), Qatar (225 per cent) and Iraq (139 per cent) also rose between 2009-13 and 2014-18. However, Syria’s arms imports fell by 87 per cent.

SIPRI notes that weapons from the U.S., UK and France are in high demand in the region, also noting that Russia, France and Germany have dramatically increased their arms sales to Egypt in the past five years.

Asia and Oceania Region Imports the Most Arms

SIPRI reports that states in Asia and Oceania received 40 per cent of global arms imports in 2014-18, but there was a decrease of 6.7 per cent compared with 2009-13. The top five arms importers in the region were India, Australia, China, south Korea and Vietnam.

Australia became the world’s fourth largest arms importer in 2014-18 after its arms imports increased by 37 per cent compared with 2009-13. Indian arms imports decreased by 24 per cent between 2009-13 and 2014-18. Russia accounted for 58 per cent of India’s arms imports in 2014-18. Chinese arms imports decreased, but it was still the world’s sixth largest arms importer in 2014-18.

“India has ordered a large number of major arms from foreign suppliers; however, deliveries are severely delayed in many cases,” says Siemon T. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. “In contrast, Chinese arms imports decreased because China has been more successful in designing and producing its own modern weaponry.”

Canada’s Role in the Global Arms Trade – 2017 Figures Excerpted from Global Affairs Report


This report covers exports of goods and technology designed for military purposes, and does not include data on dual use or strategic items.


Global Affairs Canada does not collect data on most military exports to the United States. Canada and the U.S. have had a Defence Production Sharing Agreement in place since the 1950s, which has helped create an integrated North American technological and industrial base and supported Canada-U.S. trade. As a result, most military items shipped between Canada and the U.S. do not require permits and are therefore not included in the data presented in this report. […]

Summary of Key Data:

– For the 2017 calendar year, Canada’s total exports permitted under the Export and Import Permits Act of military goods and technology amounted to approximately $1.031 billion.

– The major share ($962.1million or 93.3 per cent) went to member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or other countries included on Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL). See Annex B for the list of AFCCL countries.

– Saudi Arabia was the largest non-U.S. export destination in 2017, receiving approximately $497.5 million in Canadian military exports (accounting for 48.25 per cent of the total value of non-U.S. military exports).

– The United Kingdom was the second largest non-U.S. destination of Canadian military exports, receiving approximately $89.47 million in military exports (accounting for 8.68 per cent of all non-U.S. military exports from Canada).

– Seven NATO countries were in the top ten destinations for the same period: United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, France, Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg.

Table 1: 2017 – Total Value of Exports for Military Goods and Technology to Destinations by Defence Relationship

Defence Relationship Value Percentage
NATO Destinations $339,119,356.06 32.88%
Non-NATO AFCCL $622,995,346.12 60.42%
Other $69,062,329.54 6.70%
Total Non-U.S. Exports of Military Goods and Technology $1,031,177,031.72 100.00%

Chart 1: 2017 – Exports of Military Goods and Technology Categorized by Defence Relationship

Table 2: 2017 – Export Permits Utilized and Actual Value of Exports by Region

Region Number of Permits Value of Exports
Americas 44 $7,472,693.56
Asia-Pacific 375 $143,914,728.91
Europe 1282 $354,617,819.98
Middle East and Africa 436 $525,171,789.27
Total 2137 $1,031,177,031.72

Chart 2: 2017 – Export Value of Military Goods and Technology – Percentage by Region

Table 3: 2017 – Canada’s Top Ten Destinations for Military Goods and Technology (outside of the U.S.)

Destination Total Value Percentage
Saudi Arabia $497,494,143.06 48.25%
United Kingdom $89,466,775.67 8.68%
Australia $86,473,822.95 8.39%
Germany $65,924,517.97 6.39%
Turkey $48,269,530.60 4.68%
France $26,007,852.73 2.52%
Netherlands $25,548,952.80 2.48%
Norway $19,395,728.67 1.88%
Luxembourg $17,202,702.99 1.67%
Japan $17,001,286.47 1.65%


For the full report, click here.

(With files from SIPRI, Global Affairs Canada, Zero Hedge)

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  1. Pingback: Opposition organized to Ottawa CANSEC weapons fair | Tony Seed's Weblog

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